The anterior cruciate ligament is a tough piece of connective tissue that connects two bones in your knee. It is one of the most common knee ligaments to be strained or torn. Often, this type of injury occurs when you suddenly twist to the side with your foot planted. Symptoms include pain along the side of the knee, swelling, and difficulty walking. If you suspect you have injured your ACL, you should make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. Depending on the severity of your injury, they will recommend one of these three levels of care.
RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It is an age-old treatment for most mild soft tissue injuries, and it is likely what your doctor will recommend if your ACL is sprained but not torn. You'll need to take time off from sports and rest your knee as much as possible, which means minimizing walking and maybe even using crutches for a few weeks. Ice the knee several times per day to keep swelling down, and wear a compression wrap for the same purpose. Elevating the knee, especially when icing it, will encourage fluid to drain back towards the heart. RICE should heal most sprained ACLs within a few weeks.
Physical Therapy and Injections
If you have a mild tear in your ACL, your orthopedic doctor will likely recommend a combination of physical therapy and cortisone injections. The cortisone injections, which are given directly in the knee joint, will help reduce inflammation and jump-start the healing process. Physical therapy will strengthen the muscles around your knee to help you avoid re-injury. Most minor tears take a couple of months to heal this way, and you have to be vigilant about getting the injections and doing the recommended exercises. Otherwise, you may need surgery.
Surgery is usually recommended for moderate to severe ACL tears and also for milder tears that don't respond to physical therapy and injections. Your surgeon will remove a portion of a tendon from elsewhere in your knee and use it to repair the damaged ligament. The surgery is usually performed arthroscopically through two or three small incisions. It will take you a few months to heal, and you will normally have to undergo physical therapy after surgery for a full recovery.
Injuring your ACL is no walk in the park, but with the help of a good orthopedic doctor, you can heal and get back on track.
Contact a clinic like Orthopaedic Associates Of Rochester to learn more.